Can snow be hazardous to your health?

OWENSBORO, KY – This winter may turning out to be relatively mild when snow is considered, but it isn’t over yet, and there’s still the chance to see some wintry weather this year. Snow can be a beautiful thing, until you have to shovel it.

Every year, hospitals treat patients with back injuries, muscle strains and even heart attacks caused by shoveling snow. While the risk is probably low for most healthy people, those who are older, out of shape or have pre-existing medical conditions such as heart problems or asthma may need to be cautious and should consult their doctors before exerting themselves.


Our partners at the Cincinnati Insurance Companies offer some things to keep in mind as you arm yourself to battle winter.


  • Follow any restrictions your doctor recommends. The combination of physical exertion and severe cold temperatures can increase the workload on your heart.
  • Warm up your muscles before you shovel, just as an athlete would warm up before physical exertion.
  • Move more, light shovel loads rather than fewer heavy loads and, where possible, push the snow instead of lifting it.
  • Keep ahead of the snow. It’s less stressful to remove two or three inches at a time rather than wait to remove a six inch snowfall all at once.
  • Follow guidelines to avoid cold stress and stay alert to symptoms of hypothermia:
    • Drop in body temperature
    • Shivering
    • Slurred Speech
    • Confusion
  • Dress appropriately for weather, with footwear that won’t slip. Dress in layers for ventilation and insulation, with a top layer that repels water. Don’t overdress.
  • Use a lightweight, strong shovel with a handle long enough to prevent you from bending.
  • Stop and drink water to prevent dehydration.


The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency to help reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Find information about health hazards related to shoveling snow and heart attack warning signs on their website.

The Spine Institute at the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati provides eight tips to protect your back when shoveling snow.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers several tips for shoveling snow, including ergonomics and how to choose a shovel.

Information provided by the Cincinnati Insurance Companies.
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